I have just recently registered, although I have been on your site many times. Sorry to use nbpaddler as my username but I have had that one on Can. Canoe Routes message board for several years.
I have done this trip with 3 others (two tandems) on May 16-19, in 2003.
Yes this is a hardship trip involving a 4.5 km portage from McKay Brook (which becomes the Portage River) overland to the Gordon Meadow. There is a shorter 1 km portage as well to avoid the steeper pitches at the mouth of the Portage where it joins the NW Miramichi.
The paddling is relatively uneventful but you need to be semi-proficient at poling especially at the beginning of the Portage. Also there would be some major bushwacking needed through the alders both upstream on the McKay and on the early part of the Gordon Meadow. I doubt anyone has done this since we did it 5 years ago.
We followed in the wake of Gerry LeBlanc of Dalhousie who did it solo in 2000 and had been through in the winter to blaze the trail, because there is no actual trail anymore.
Dont let me discourage you altogether as you will be one of a small # of people (<10) to have paddled this in the last 80-90 years or more. You will have to be creative finding campsites.
Let me know if you need more details, I also have great pics.
It is almost impossible to differentiate where the McKay and East Branch come together. This area is very flat and the course of the stream meanders through thick (and I mean thick) alders). There are places where you will need clippers to cut your way through and progress is very slow.
We put in on the NW Mir. at the bridge on Route 430 on Friday by noon. Paddled 10 km on the NW to a river bank on left to avoid the mouth of the Portage. A confusing 1 km portage to get to the Portage River gets you to 500 m of challenging poling, but from there the paddling is doable until first campsite, which for us was a well placed cabin near where the McKay and East Branch join. Poling continues up the McKay on day 2 which ends in a narrow channel (3feet wide). Keep an eye out for blazes which marks the beginning of the 4-5 km portage. We left our canoes here and portaged our gear 3.5 km and camped on the reamins of a road at the edge of a 25-30 year tree plantation which was thick with spruce grouse.
We set up camp here and then went back for the canoes in the morning. After we got the canoes back to camp, we slid our canoes down a steep hill to a bog and then pushed and pulled our canoes and gear over the bog the last km to the Gordon Meadow (this part was brutal as each step brought you over your ankle in floating sphagnum). There is a comfortable feeling when you paddle down river again after 2 days of walking and upriver paddling against current. This feeling is quickly squashed as alders soon dominate the stream sides and cutting a path renews. We made our third camp on the Gordon Meadow somewhere. On day four the remainder of the trip is nice as the Gordon Meadow is narrow and tight, but with no portages, but occasional lifts over beaver dams. Nearing the Nepisiguit, the GM gets rocky and steeper. Once on the Nep. river it feels weird to be on such a large river. We paddled through some nice rapids on day four and took out above the Pabineau Falls.
This trip is at times greulling and could easily add another day to make it more enjoyable, but it gets you into some fantastic country where few have been before. Pack light and carry a water filter. We were very fortunate to have found some rotting snow to melt and drink during the long portage. Unfortunately beer is heavy and a burden on a portage, so I would recommend Fireball for evening campfires.
I also have GPS waypoints saved which would help if you were interested. I would like to do this trip again someday, but there are other rivers that I have not done yet so they are ahead on my list.
Thanks for your work on this website. It is a huge asset to the paddling community.
I have pictures of the portage between Mackay and Gordon. The trail is cleared and blazed and maintained by a Tim Hume regularly. He reports that the alders are cleared for paddling on the MacKay-Portage and mostly cleared for paddling on the Gordon Meadow.